Our Most Memorable Wines of 2021

As I have done the last few years, I asked our team to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2021, and why. In the rush of the holidays -- and with some key members of our team out with new babies -- there were some familiar faces who didn't send in an entry this year. But still, this was one of my favorite blogs to put together. I love seeing the breadth of wine interests of the Tablas Creek team. More than that, I love seeing what inspired them. In a year with as many ups and downs as 2021, it's not surprising that it was the moments or memories that a special bottle of wine marked that stood out. It was a great reminder of how wine brings people together, whatever the times or the challenges. 

Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end):

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
Sometimes the most memorable wine is not just because of the wine, but because of the moment. My family lost a wonderful man in January, but we were fortunate to spend the last few weeks with my father-in-law at his home. He deeply appreciated my cooking and always loved the wines I offered him.  In his last days he requested braised lamb shank (said with his English accent) that he had a “hankering” for it. I had been saving my oldest vintage of Panoplie in my collection for the perfect moment, and this was indeed the perfect moment. It was the last wine I was ever able to share with him, but I will never forget his response as he enjoyed every sip; “Janelle, this is excellent!” He passed a few days later but that moment lives on, and that 2015 Panoplie will always remind me of him. 

Cheers to a New Year, may everyone be Happy, Healthy, and Humble.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
Rather than a single bottle I would like to share a wine experience that I found particularly inspiring. Marci, Boo and myself were heading to Portland to meet up with Jordan and Amanda, we were about to hike the Mount Hood Timberline trail, another tale altogether. I have been intrigued by the farming practices of Antiquum Farm for some time so took this opportunity to go and pay them a visit. At Antiquum they farm using many species in an intense grazing program, having set up the vineyard to be able to graze all year round. We were lucky enough to sit and taste with Stephen Hagan the owner and farmer, as well as spending time with Andrew the wine maker and apparently many wearer of many other hats. The whole experience was really a treat. Stephen is passionate and articulates that passion with an ease that is rare. The wines were unique and excellent across the board. The Pinot Noirs really display a character that speaks of the place and the people and creatures who tirelessly farm the land and make the wines. If you can you should go, if you cannot, buy some wines and read their story. Happy New Year to you all!!!! Neil..

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year, I existed in two worlds that exposed me to incredible wines. The first was when I started attending school at Sonoma State University, which has allowed me to connect with wine professionals in both the Napa and Sonoma regions and, through them, their wines. The most memorable wine thus far has been a Chardonnay from Hanzell Vineyards. It was a wine that stopped everything around me and demanded my focus. I think about that moment often.

The second world is as the producer of our Facebook Live show, Tasting with Neil. Sitting alongside Winemaker Neil Collins while he opens bottles from legendary producers all over California exposed me to some incredible wines. In April, Randall Graham joined the show, and I got to share one of the first wines ever produced from his Popelouchum project. It was a Grenache, picked from vines that only produced one cluster per vine, fermented in a food-safe 15-gallon garbage can, and aged in a 15-gallon barrel. That was the wine’s entire production! It was unique, with beautiful red fruit and an earthiness reminiscent of the old world. [If you missed the conversation, you can watch it on YouTube by clicking the image below.]

Randall Grahm on Tasting with Neil

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
The years just keep on flying by and yet another one bites the dust. One of the pure joys of working at Tablas Creek involves consuming unabashedly obscure ‘varieties‘ (Morris, 2021) like Terret Noir, Bourboulenc, Picardan and Vaccarese in unfettered 100% format. Where else can you find a pristine example of these rare gem stones? Precisely. Then there is the 2021 love affair with my girl Marcie. Marcie, also known as Marsanne 2019 to those in the know has become my favorite everyday drinking companion. As 2022 approaches she will soon vanish forevermore like dust in the wind so let her know how you feel while that flame still burns bright. Thanks for the memories.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Darren's WOTY 2021One morning during harvest, I added a couple cases of wine to my humble Morro Bay storage space at Toobs Bodyboards. I pulled an aged gem from the foam covered stash and headed to the winery to host an afternoon tour. I put the bottle of 2010 Domaine Gros Noré Bandol Rouge in my computer bag to save it from the heat of my parked car, and as I waltzed up the crush pad, I noticed the winemaking team doing their celebratory harvest lunch with wines. Neil Collins saw me and barked “What’s in the bag?” Turns out it was everyone’s lucky day, and after nine years at Tablas Creek, I was finally offered a seat at the holy production table, beneath the sweating destemmer, and I revealed the bounty. Neil has been to Gros Noré, and on first whiff he proclaimed “I feel like I’m there. Right now.” In this era of limited travel, it’s a blessing how great wines can transport you to a far off place through your senses. As a collector, cracking this Mourvédre based red at 11 years of age caught this once tannic beast at a moment of resolved, concentrated greatness.

A solid runner up would be the Herve Souhart 2018 La Souteronne, which is a rare Gamay from the Northern Rhone, recommended to me by Patrick at San Diego’s Vino Carta. Like a cool climate, minerally Syrah and bright Gamay combined, I’ve bought this juicy rarity at every shop I’ve since seen it at this year. Happy Holidays!

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Six Test KitchenPost 2020, nearly every wine we enjoyed with people we love felt overwhelmingly special.  But among this year of stand-out experiences, where we’ve learned that it’s always a good time to bring out the good stuff, there were a few moments that rose to the top.  Back in March, our friends Dan and Gail treated us to a dinner at Six Test Kitchen here in Paso Robles.  Every single moment of that dinner was completely over the top –  the company and conversation, the food, the plating, the setting, and of course, the wine.  Each pairing that was presented was an absolute delight and an utter experience.  The restaurant gained its first Michelin Star a few months ago (none of us can get over how cool it is that we have a Michelin starred restaurant down the street!) and after our incredible evening there spent being treated like honored guests, it’s easy to see why. 

In a year like this, where no interactions are taken for granted, it was the time spent with cherished friends that was the centerpiece while incredible wines helped to punctuate the occasion.

Ray King, Tasting Room
For me, there were so many fun and different wine this year. It was a difficult task to come up with the most memorable, but here are a few that were stellar.

Domaine Castéra, Jurancon sec (Petit Courbu & Gros Manseng), 2019.
Chateau Marcadis, Lalande de Pomerol, 2019
Ulysses, 2016
Tablas Creek, Marsanne, 2019
Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre, 2019
Txomin Etxaniz, Getaria Rosé, Txakolina, 2019
Chateau Raymond-La-Fon, Sauternes, 2002
Chateau Moulin, Canon Fronsac, 2015
Erste-Neve, Alto Adige, Lagrein, 2019
Ulloa Cellars, Verdejo, 2020
Nelle, Pinwheel (GB, R, Vio), 2018
Alban Vineyards, Reva, Syrah, 2002, 2005, 2008
Mathilde et Yves Gangloff, Saint Joseph Blanc, 2011
Agree, Txakolina, 2019
Paix Sur Terre, Ugni Blanc, 2020
 
Like I said, this is a few of the most memorable wines in my 2021. 

Gustavo Prieto, Biodynamic Lead
Gustavos Wine of 2021My wine of the year is a Castell D’Age 100% Grenache, or Garnacha in Spain, with no sulfites added. The wine had a nice earthiness and some brettyness on the nose, dense and a very dark color. Castell D’Age is a special place in the Penedes region of Spain and I had the privilege of visiting the winery a few years ago. In addition to being certified organic and biodynamic, the winery is owned by three generations of women. 

Jim Van Haun, Tasting Room
I've had a lot of really nice wines this year but the Tablas Creek 2020 Vermentino stands out. My first experience with Vermentino, called Rolle in France, was on a 3 week vacation to the Rhone in 2015. Vermentino is one of those wines that has bright acidity and crispness that reflects the low PH. The Tablas Creek 2020 version is especially so and reminds me of a perfect Summer day. It's wine's version of a really good limey gin and tonic!

...And As for Me
Most summers, we go back to Vermont to spend at least a few weeks in the house in which I grew up, where my mom still spends half the year, and where my sister and her family live too. 2020 interrupted that tradition, so once we'd gotten ourselves and our boys vaccinated we decided to spend a full month back east in 2021. And there are always rewards. Green grass and forests, nonchlorinated bodies of water for swimming, and the chance to reinforce those connections with family and friends who we didn't get to see the year before. For my family, that means lots of long meals around the dinner table. We always share the cooking and washing up so it's not a chore for anyone, and not every meal is a fancy one. But we do try to pull out all the stops a few times, and decided one afternoon to build a meal for which we could open a couple of legendary wines from the era when my dad was the exclusive American importer for a few of the top Bordeaux houses.

The meal itself was lovely: roasted racks of lamb, gratin dauphinois, sautéed zucchini (the year’s first from the garden) and a tomato salad. The wines were a 1961 Lafite and a 1970 Petrus, and both were in outstanding shape. The Petrus was round and lush, the Lafite a bit more spicy and angular. Tannins were pretty well resolved in both. Just a lovely occasion to taste and appreciate two magical wines that we have a personal connection to, and be thankful for my dad's judgment and foresight. It wasn't an otherwise meaningful day (not a birthday or an anniversary) but the meal made it meaningful. If there's one conclusion I've come to over the pandemic, it's that you've got to make your own celebrations when you have the opportunity. 

JCH Wines of the Year 2021

A few concluding thoughts:
One of the things I appreciate most about the team that I work with at Tablas Creek is the wide range of their interests and experiences. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of their time drinking their own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education. So it wasn't a surprise to me that while some wines were Tablas Creek, most were not. But whatever the wines that were chosen, it stood out to me how wine can help provide a memory of a person or place, or punctuation for a moment that helps bring connection.

As we settling into our third pandemic year, making the most of these opportunities for connection is one of my own goals. I wish you all memorable food and wine experiences in 2022, and even more than that, new connections and a greater sense of community. May we all find more to celebrate next year.


Tract Home Guerilla Winemaking - The Sequel

By Darren Delmore

(For those of you who didn’t read part one about how you can make wine from a single vine, I once made 2.5 bottles of varietally correct and quaffable Roussanne from my mom's oceanside vine, hand bottled and labeled in time for Mother’s Day.)

As harvest 2021 was ripening along, my mother kept texting me photos of the crazy Roussanne vine taking over her backyard. At random hours, spaced out among days, sometimes well after 2 am, a photo would come through, often with a simple question mark, or “I think these grapes are going bad," even the simple "HELP.” The main complaint used to be that the vine, purchased in a pot at Tablas Creek back in 2007, had blossomed to prolific proportions and obstructed the ocean view from her bathroom window. At 74 years of age, she still runs the oldest Italian restaurant in SLO County, yet the backyard vine seemed to be of a much higher importance. 

Big vine
Roussanne grapes

Then a texted photo came my way, showing a big Roussanne cluster with some bunch rot happening in its center, so I stopped by her gated community by the beach and had a look. A second vine that I’d put in the ground in 2009, from a simple hard pruning, was having its Coachella moment. Thirty gorgeous clusters raging beneath a healthy green, head trained canopy. I hadn’t sprayed the vines with sulfur or done anything but a timely winter pruning, and perhaps the dryness of this vintage kept the coastal mildew and rot mostly at bay. “Yes mom, we are going to have a vintage!” I announced. Together, my mother and I pulled bird netting over the vines and tied it to the trunks. The clusters on the original vine were already showing the classic gold and rust-spotted freckles of Roussanne, and I cut off the cluster that had the documented rot, leaving the rest to ripen.

Cut to the third week of October, and after taking my son to a gymnastics session in SLO, I had one hour to spare, so I hauled down to Shell Beach with shears and two buckets.  I texted from her driveway: “I’m here for the grapes." She came out into her backyard five minutes later adorned with new fabric gloves, a hat, shades and even sunscreen on, to pick these mere two vines. We pulled the netting off and saw that the extra hang time allowed the second vine’s fruit to catch up. “This is the best these have looked in years,” I said.

“Look at these grapes, Darren!” She was excited.

“You take that vine, mom, I’ll get this one.”

Roussanne - Mom - Harvest

We filled two buckets and a tote with coastal Roussanne, tidied up the netting for next year, and I sped off to pick up kids and prepare my lower back for “the fun part” of making small batch white wine at home.

I’ve met avid home winemakers in Paso Robles with all kinds of custom contraptions to make the pressing process easier, but perhaps the stubborn, hard working side of my mother is fully alive within me, and I chose to hand crush and press in the buckets, till a good portion of the juice was visible, then poured the buckets nearly upside down, holding the skins in, through an appropriate pasta screened funnel, into a glass carboy.

Crushing Roussanne

I’m sure drilling holes into the bottom of one bucket and pressing downward over a second bucket or larger funnel is probably the smarter way to go. But in the dark in my backyard, sweating, grunting, cussing, promising never to do this again, and surely raising suspicions from my new neighbors, I filled a 3 gallon carboy and part of a one gallon growler, putting on the plastic air locks and tucking them away in the garage. The skins went into the green waste bin. My wife thought I was insane. 

One gallon

Days later, the tell tale “Bloop bloop bloop” sounds from the corner of the garage proclaimed that natural fermentation had begun.

After a few weeks, the bubbling stopped, and a thick layer of white sediment had formed at the bottom of each glass container. I elevated the glass up on some cases of wine to settle overnight, then the next morning, using a simple food grade hose, I siphoned the clear wine into a clean 3 gallon carboy, and chucked the sediment. There was a small amount of the wine in the hose, so I drained it into a glass and tentatively smelled it, expecting a bouquet of formaldehyde and kerosene at best. But lo and behold, there was honeysuckle and some ginger… it was Roussanne all right!

Mama Del Old Vines Estate Roussanne 2021 was happening.

As temperatures were forecasted to dip to 27 degrees on December 11th, I added a pinch of sulfur to the wine and put the glass carboys of wine outside on a towel. Cold stabilization done the natural way. The cold temps would in theory precipitate some crystals out of the wine to cling to the glass, hopefully adding a touch of clarification.

December 13th, using the hand corker I’d bought years ago at Doc’s Cellar in SLO, I hand corked 10 bottles of my mom’s Roussanne, labeling the back accordingly. Just in time for her 75th birthday on December 16th.

Rouss bottle

The big reveal came at the Madonna Inn, where we took her for dinner. I pre chilled the first bottle and agreed to a corkage fee that was a bit flattering for such a homemade wine. The server poured it into the inn's trademark goblets. I watched my mom for her reaction. 

“What grape is this again?” she asked, swirling the white wine and looking a bit concerned.

“It's still Roussanne.”

She swirled it again, put her glasses on, and studied the custom back label. Then she lowered her nose in the glass. “It’s oaky, isn’t it?”

“Impossible. Do you like it?”

“It’s… it’s... I don't know." She sipped it and scowled. Maybe I'd rushed things. The acids were omnipresent, though it still smelled varietally sound. Besides, here it was, the fruit of her backyard vine, turned into a clear, packaged and labeled wine in less than two month's time.

"It's... it's different, Darren." 

"Different?"

"I don't know."

I shotgunned the entire glass and resigned myself over the Gold Rush Steakhouse menu.


What We'll Be Drinking with Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's brings extended family together for a day of cooking, eating, and reflecting on what we're grateful for. It's still thankfully largely uncommercialized. And it feels like this last year, for all its challenges, has given us plenty to be thankful for. My family has managed to stay safe and healthy. Our boys are back in school. Tablas Creek has emerged from our Covid challenges in good shape. And because vaccines have made a resumption of more-or-less normal life possible, we're going back to a big family gathering this year. For all these reasons, it feels like this is going to be a Thanksgiving celebration in a way last year's wasn't.

Last year's pairings were a little unusual too, because what was a family of four going to do with a turkey, anyway? Still, before diving into specific recommendations, it's worth going over some things that don't change. Try not to stress over your choices. Open a range of wines. Expect each of them to sing with a dish or two, coexist peacefully enough with another, and maybe clash with something. That can be fun, and instructive. Remember, and accept that it's OK, that nothing will pair particularly well with sweet potato casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts. Open a few more wines than you think you'll need, and don't feel bad about having wine leftovers, along with your food. You'll likely learn something, and have fun along the way. Remember that open bottles kept in the fridge should be fine for a week or more. And if you're still stressing after reading all these recommendations, I refer you to the 2016 piece on W. Blake Gray's blog where he set up a simple 5-question quiz to answer the question "is this wine good for Thanksgiving". I'm sure I haven't gone through every possible combination, but I've never gotten any answer other than "yes".

OK, now that I've told you any choice is perfectly fine, it's only fair that I acknowledge my own preferences. After all, there are wines that I tend to steer clear of, like wines that are powerfully tannic (which tend to come off even more so when they're paired with some of the sweeter Thanksgiving dishes), and wines that are high in alcohol (which tend to be fatiguing by the end of what is often a marathon of eating and drinking). But that still leaves you plenty of options. With a traditional turkey dinner, I tend to steer people toward richer whites and rosés, and fruitier reds relatively light in oak and tannin. Plenty of Tablas Creek wines fit these broad criteria, so if you want to stay in the family, you could try anything from Marsanne and Esprit Blanc to Dianthus Rosé to Counoise or Cotes de Tablas. Richer red meat preparations open up a world of Mourvedre-based reds young or old, from Esprit de Tablas to Panoplie to En Gobelet, which just (say it out loud) sounds like something you should be drinking at this time of year.  

But I'm just one person. As I've done the last several years, I reached out to our team to ask them what they were planning on drinking this year. Their responses are below, in their own words, in alphabetical order.

Thanksgiving Capon

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I love Thanksgiving, and I love tradition so my wine choice doesn’t vary all that much from year to year because why change a good thing?!  So, again this year I am opening the Tablas Creek Counoise. It is my Thanksgiving staple and I doubt that will ever change!  If you haven’t had the Counoise with Thanksgiving dinner, you absolutely must.  In addition to the Counoise, I’m bringing a bottle of the 2019 Full Circle Pinot Noir from Tablas…. What a fantastic vintage this Full Circle is… absolutely stellar. For the white wine I’ve decided on a Domaine Weinbach Reisling from Alsace – also a Thanksgiving staple in my house.

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
It is a big one for us as we celebrate our first Thanksgiving with a grandchild, Finnegan Aldous Collins. Now that is something to be thankful for. No doubt we will get the pre-game rolling with the Lone Madrone Pet–Nat of Chenin Blanc, some bubbles to excite. Moving on to a bottle that I have never actually tried, a Reichsgraf Von Kesselatatt, Saar Riesling Kabinet, 2018. There is a bit of a family Riesling thing going on at present so this bottle will be much anticipated. We have been exploring wines of the Jura for many years, they are a family favorite, hence we will indulge that interest with an Arbois Pupillin, Chardonnay ‘la Marcette’ 2019, Cellier Saint Benoit. To keep the Chardonnay company we have another Jura, the Trousseau Grevilliere from Domaine Dugois, Arbois, 2018. After we made a family circumnavigation of mount Hood on the Timberline Trail this year we rewarded ourselves with a visit to the family favorite, Brickhouse, where we tasted and picked up a couple of Magnums of 2018 Ribbon Ridge Gamay Noir with this meal in mind. Lastly (likely not a true statement) we will open a 2017 Cavallotto Barolo, Bricco Boschis. I say likely not true as there is a probability that other bottles will find their way to table, as they do! Oh and there will doubtless be Cider about!!!

Have a great day, eat and celebrate family, friends and all that you have to be thankful for. Cheers, the Collins family.

Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing
This year I'll have two Thanksgivings thanks to a fun Friendsgiving this past weekend. To that meal I brought a magnum of 2015 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. Meals of 10+ people are the perfect excuse to bring out a magnum! It paired nicely with the turkey, mac, stuffing, and everything else. For Thanksgiving with my family, which will be four of us, I have chosen a nice rose. Mas de Gourgonnier Rose from 2020 is a direct press blend of Grenache, Cabernet, and Mourvedre from the famed organic producer. I'm looking forward to seeing how it pairs.

Terrence Crowe, Tasting Room
Ah the sound of a cracklin’ fire and warm company abound. This Thanksgiving I am proud to say I will be highlighting some outstanding Collector's Edition options for turkey day 2021. Both the 2013 Esprit Rouge and 2015 Esprit Blanc will be thirst quenching table side options. Nothing like two outstanding Tablas Creek bottles with a few years on them. Picardan 2020 will also be holding a place at this years feast. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at their gathering and plenty of thought provoking wine to keep conversations interesting. 

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
The world of wine again proves that there are new discoveries around the world to keep my curiosities alive. I was so late to the Cru Beaujolais game that it's a bit embarrassing. Being a fan of wines that are naturally fermented, artisan in aromas and textures, and full of bright, non-manipulated fruit, it's wild to think that it took until 2021 to discover the village of Morgon. With that said, Domaine Lapierre Morgon 2019, which I've consumed a half a case of easy this year, will be on the table, as will the Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2014, with its florals and riches on show.  

Eddie Garcia, Logistics
This Thanksgiving is one that I have a lot to be thankful for. I just completed my one year anniversary here at Tablas Creek in September, and cannot be more excited for what is to come. My family continues to be healthy, happy and safe, even with this new round of the pandemic. But most importantly, I’ve been blessed with having a new sibling in my life. My sister Sandy and I met for the first time this summer, and we’ve become close in such a short time. Looking forward to her coming out from Arizona next year for a visit and getting to share with her our amazing Central Coast, and definitely some tastings will be lined up. 

With so much to be thankful for, I’ve held onto a bottle that I cannot wait to open: a 2017 Interpretation from Full Draw. This Tempranillo was amazing when I sampled it a few months ago at the winery, and cannot wait to open and get reacquainted. I’ll also be bringing some of our great Tablas wines, including a 2018 Grenache (my last one!), and 2019 Cotes de Tablas. Hope everyone has a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Jody Gomes, Accounts Payable & Compliance
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, not just because of the delicious food but because of the wine pairings. This year, my fiancé and I will be sharing Thanksgiving with his family during the day and with my family in the evening, that means … double the wine! Since the festivities will begin about noon, we will most likely start with a bottle of 2020 Gewurztraminer from our good friends at Tackitt Family Vineyards. During the meal my fiancé and I plan to open a bottle of 2019 grenache that we made together in our home winery aka garage, we like to call it our ‘Garage Grenache’. Thanksgiving round two will start at my parent’s house about 4:00pm, my 95-year-old grandfather will be joining us at the table this year so the house will be filled with laughter and great conversation. The men like to begin every dinner with a glass of Tanqueray over ice while my Mom and I will open a bottle of our favorite sparkling wine from Domaine Carneros, Le Reve Blanc de Blancs. My Mom and I have made it a tradition for the last couple of years to open that bottle on Thanksgiving, we look forward to it all year long! At dinner we like to open a variety of bottles to cater to everyone’s pallets. For the last several years a staple on our table is a bottle of Tablas Creek Counoise, if any wine was made for Thanksgiving, this is the one! For the wine drinkers who like a bolder wine, we usually open a Syrah or Zinfandel. Staying local to Paso Robles, we will open a Syrah from Caliza and a Zinfandel from the Ueberroth Vineyard at Turley. I am certainly thankful to share a beautiful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Cheers!

Ray King, Tasting Room
This Thanksgiving will be a traditional meal spent with my mother, sisters, and our other close relatives. So for the traditional meal I am bringing three different wines that will fit in perfectly.

1) Txomin Etxaniz,  Rose Txakoli 2019, a fun and refreshing Basque wine.
2) Domaine De Fa, Beaujolais 'En Besset’ 2019. Lovely Gamay is always welcome at a Thanksgiving table.
3) Tablas Creek, Mourvèdre 2019. Simply my current favorite red wine from Tablas Creek and, it too, will be fantastic with a Thanksgiving dinner.

Haydee McMickle, Tasting Room
I’ll start with a Clairette de Die Brut, Domaine Archad-Vincent it’s delightful and a wonderful starter. I like to open several wines for the main meal. Esprit Blanc is a favorite friend , the 2017, or more interesting is the 2015. It goes great with the turkey, the leek & mushroom gratin or the cornbread sausage stuffing. I also like to switch to a light red, this year a Moulin-a-Vent Vielles Vignes Beaujolais Cru, which is tasty with the same foods but goes really well with sweet potatoes. These are engaging with the meal yet keep me light on feet so I can play a family game of Catan or Telestrations.  

Bon Appetit and best wishes to all. 

Monica O'Connor, Direct Sales Manager
Thanksgiving this year is going to be a new experience, and one I am greatly looking forward to. While I’m missing my son and daughter-in-law, I’ll be spending the day with new friends who truly feel like family.  And because one is French, I feel a particular responsibility to make it special for her! So we will toast with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, our gratitude for family, friends, health, and all the blessings we enjoy.

I have two special bottles to share with them. The first is a 2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges Village "Les Plateaux", which I’ve come to know as a perfect wine for celebrating a special occasion, and also one to savor and stimulate thought. The other is the beautiful Tablas Creek 2017 Le Complice. It is the definitive balance of earth, fruit, herbs and spice. It has depth and finesse and charm – it will surely integrate all the flavors and textures of our Thanksgiving feast.

All this beauty - family, friends, abundance in kindness and caring at work and at home - is a powerful reminder of all we have to be grateful for.

Lisa Rainey, Tasting Room
In October of 2018 we bought a ten-acre property on Willow Creek Road.  The property contains almost three acres of vines, which had been severely neglected.  We’ve been working since that time on building a new home on the site and bringing the vines back to health.  With AmByth Estates and Tablas Creek Vineyard as role models for farming practices, we have been dry farming and farming using mostly biodynamic practices.  The first wine from our property was released this year, AmByth Rainey Rose.  This year, even though our house isn’t complete, we plan to have our dinner at our new property.  It seems incredibly fitting that we enjoy a bottle of AmByth Rainey Rose.  We also plan to open a Lone Madrone wine, from the Old Oak Vineyard – one of our Willow Creek neighbors. 

Randy Thurman, IT and Facilities Manager
We saved a magnum of 2018 Esprit Blanc to have with some smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, and a rum pumpkin cheesecake while spending time with family.

Amanda Weaver, Cellar Assistant
A slightly more normal Thanksgiving this year, getting to see more of the family and not having as much trepidation. Additionally, there is one big change this year that everyone is excited about…. We have a wee little one!! My boyfriend’s brother and his wife had a sweet little boy a week ago and everyone cannot wait to celebrate with him! That being said, I predict many wines at the table. As far as what I am going to contribute… that is still keeping me up at night. On the chopping block are 2014 Hitching Post Valdiguie, 2019 Story of Soil Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Tablas Creek Couniose, plus everything that is sitting in the wine fridge that I have yet to raid (I think there are some forgotten gems in there). I also underestimate the lure of popping into the local wine shop for a last minute gander which will surely gain me a few new bottles! Anyhow, I hope everyone has a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving!

And as for me...
Typically, my choice is to open the largest bottle I have to hand at Thanksgiving gatherings. There's usually a story behind a big bottle, and the randomness of "just open it" adds a certain amount of pleasurable discovery to the gathering, as well as the festivity that large bottles bring. And with a full complement of adults this year, that's a lot more appealing than it would have been for three adults last year. I believe we have a magnum (from the late 1990s) from an old Central Coast Wine Classic "Classic Cuvee" that we did along with Bob Lindquist when he was at Qupe. So, that's one wine. I know we'll also want some Beaujolais, maybe the Clos de la Roilette Fleurie that my mom and I split a case of last year. I'm also itching to open the 2019 Cinsaut, our first-ever from Tablas Creek, which I think will end up being a perfect Thanksgiving partner. For whites, maybe a Semillon from Bedrock Wines that I've been saving. Going with an old-school California blend seems appropriate for this quintessentially American holiday. Plus, it's got both richness and brightness, which a white needs to go with the Thanksgiving meal. And almost certainly some older Roussanne, though I'll have to dig around in my stocks to see what I have. One of the most memorable tastings I had this year was when we opened the first-ever Roussanne, from 2001, as a part of an exploration of the beginnings of our varietal wine program. I'd love to share that experience with the rest of my family. 

Wherever you are, however you're celebrating, please know that we are thankful for you. Thank you for helping get us through the last year. May your celebrations, small or large, be memorable, and the wines you open outstanding.


When All Roads Lead to Regenerative Organics: An interview with Tablas Creek's Harvest 2021 Interns

By Ian Consoli

Tablas Creek has a highly competitive harvest internship program every year. We receive multiple applications, and typically only two are selected to harvest alongside the regular cellar team. This harvest was particularly competitive as it marks the first Regenerative Organic Certified™ grape harvest in history. (You can read more about the significance of this event in this blog post by Viticulturist Jordan Lonborg from 2020).

So who did we select? I took the time this week to sit down with two individuals inspired by the promise of regenerative organics. Jennifer (Jenny) Wootten I know well, as we have worked together in the tasting room since she came on as a barback in 2019. Lauren Danna I have gotten to know as this harvest has progressed. Both are inspiring young women who have worked hard all harvest and are beginning to set their sights on their future. One, preferably, involving Regenerative Organic Certified.

I can't wait for you to meet them.

Who are you?

Jenny

I'm Jenny Wootten, and I'm a harvest intern at Tablas Creek.

Lauren

I'm Lauren Danna, and I am also a harvest intern at Tablas Creek for the 2021 harvest.

Jennifer Wootten and Lauren Danna sorting grapesJenny and Lauren on the sorting table

Where did you grow up?

Jenny

I grew up in San Diego, California, in a community called Scripps Ranch.

Lauren

I am from Yuba City, California, a smaller rural town in Northern California.

 

When and how did you get into wine?

Jenny

I got into wine in high school. My interest was piqued on drives through wine country. I had a mixture of interests in culinary arts, chemistry, and biochemistry. I ended up going to Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] for wine and viticulture and stayed in the wine industry afterward.

Lauren

My interest started my junior year of junior college when I was living in Florence, Italy. I majored in Agriculture Business and was exposed to wine through a culture of wine class based on the Italian region that I was living in. That's where it sparked.

 

Is this your first grape Harvest?

Lauren

This is my first grape harvest.

Jenny

This is my second grape harvest, and my first one was in 2019 at Adelaida.

 

How did you hear about Tablas Creek?

Lauren

I heard about Tablas Creek through a simple web search. I am really interested in regenerative organics. So one day, I searched "regenerative organic wineries," and Tablas came up everywhere. I did a bit more research and happened to know some people that worked here, so I reached out to them, they filled me in, and I decided to apply.

Jenny

I've been working in the tasting room at Tablas Creek since May of 2019. One of my friends was an officer of the Vines and Wines club on campus, and she made an announcement that Tablas Creek was looking for other bar backs. I wanted to get more involved in the industry, so I started bar backing and eventually started pouring in the tasting room. I graduated this May with more of an interest in production and working in the cellar. So I thought I would go for it and see if they would have me as a harvest intern in the cellar to get a little more exposure.

Jenny in the CellarJenny Wootten in the cellar (Photo: Heather Daenitz)

How did you end up working harvest with us?

Lauren

After speaking with the couple of people that I knew, I connected with Neil and Chelsea. They were interested in hiring me. The timing worked out with when my lease in Denver, Colorado, ended. The stars seemed to align, so here I am doing a harvest!

Jenny

I reached out to Chelsea and asked if they were still hiring interns, and they ended up giving me an interview. They let me know they would be happy to have me on. They have helped me learn more about our production process, which is particularly interesting because I have been talking about the production process in the tasting room for a long time. It's an entirely different thing to experience it firsthand.

 

What routines do you have after long days to prepare for the next day?

Jenny

I like to meet up with friends after work and grab a beer or a cider. Then I go home, shower, and unwind, and try to fall asleep before 10:30.

Lauren

If there's still sunlight when I get home, I like to do something active because it helps me reset. If not, I'll go home, shower, and get prepped for the next day. Like Jenny said, trying to get to bed before 10 or 10:30, but that doesn't seem to happen too often. I feel like I always think I have time to get things done after work, and all of a sudden, I was supposed to be in bed an hour ago.

 

What has been your best memory from harvest 2021?

Lauren

Within my first two weeks here, I was helping fill barrels, and I was unfamiliar with the equipment I was using. On the little remote, there's a knob where you control the speed, zero is slow, and 10 is fast. We're filling a barrel, and I'm watching to make sure we fill it all the way to the brim. My coworker, Kayja, left me for just a second, and suddenly I realized it was getting full. She says, stop it. And instead of turning it to 0, I turned it to 10, and wine goes everywhere, spouting three to four feet up. I was drenched in wine.

Lauren in the CellarLauren Danna examining a tank (Photo credit: Heather Daenitz)

Jenny

A week before I was supposed to start working full-time as a harvest intern, I came in at 7am to work in the cellar before my tasting room shift. That might be one of my favorite harvest feelings because I was so excited to get into it. I got to load a press and do a bunch of other stuff. It was just super fun because I missed the cellar a lot.

 

How does it feel to be a part of the first Regenerative Organic Certified™ grape harvest ever?

Lauren

It's awesome. It's so exciting. Every day I am in disbelief. Especially because that's what initially attracted me to the winery. Seeing the cellar side of it and how it translates into the wine, not just the growing. It's awesome. And I'm so fortunate. It's been a really great experience.

Jenny

My excitement about Tablas Creek being the world's first Regenerative Organic Certified™ winery has been built up through working here for so long. I really want to pursue advocating for the spread of Regenerative organics in the wine industry. Being a part of this harvest has helped me build a passion and excitement for moving forward in my career.

 

What's your ultimate goal in cellar work?

Jenny

My ultimate goal in cellar work is to become more comfortable with all the heavy machinery and processes. In your first harvest, it's overwhelming when you're working with a lot of the new equipment. In your second harvest, it's still overwhelming because you don't use a lot of it most of the year and have to refresh on everything. As someone who wants to pursue winemaking as my future, my goal is to be comfortable in the cellar.

Lauren

I don't really know what my future holds in a cellar. Similar to Jenny, my goal is to continue becoming more familiar with the equipment we use.

 

If a genie said you could be head winemaker anywhere, where would you pick?

Jenny

I think Sardinia or Southern Italy. Before, I would've said Northern Italy because I think Italian reds are really cool. I love the structure they have, the brightness, acidity, and ageability. But recently, I've become a lot more familiar with Southern Italian and Mediterranean island-based wines, like Corsica and Sardinia. Working in that more Mediterranean circle in a unique environment would be super cool.

Lauren

No winery in particular, but a winery up in the Northern region of Italy. I just fell in love with the region when I lived there, and I just love the area and the people and the culture.

Jenny

And a place that follows regenerative organics.

Lauren

Yeah!

 

Best bottle of wine you ever had?

Lauren

2019 Tablas Creek Counoise! It reminds me of when I lived in Italy and had some Chiantis that I said, I can never part ways with this, but I'm going to have to, because I won't live here forever. I've really learned to love how we make wine and the style here, and it was so new. Definitely my favorite as of right now.

Jenny

I am really into trying new bottles from all over the world from different producers, so that's pretty tough. One bottle that is most memorable for me is this 2016 Madiran Malbec/Tannat blend. I think about it somewhat regularly, which is kind of nerdy, but I'm okay with that.

 

What's next for you?

Jenny

Within the next year, I'm going to start the OIB Masters of Science and Wine Management based out of the University of Montpelier. I need to learn French for it, which is a little daunting right now, but that's okay. Before that, I'm waiting for a couple Southern hemisphere opportunities to come about, possibly doing a viticulture internship.

Lauren

This is the question I asked myself pretty regularly. I'm not really sure what's next. I want to try so many other things, and maybe another harvest is in the cards, but that's another year away. I know that I want to be a part of some sort of production moving forward, although not necessarily grapes. I do plan to continue to be involved in Regenerative Organics. However that may be, I'm not sure, but that's kind of where my head is right now with the future.

 

Would you rather:

Fly or breathe underwater?

Jenny

I would rather fly because I'm a terrible swimmer.

Lauren

Fly so I could get to places so much faster, and I could just go whenever I want.

Cake or Pie?

Lauren

Pie

Jenny

Cake

 Old World wine or New World wine?

Jenny

Old World

Lauren

Old World

Be a winemaker or a viticulturist?

Jenny

Winemaker

Lauren

Viticulturist

Jennifer Wootten and Lauren Danna


Going Different Places, Doing Different Things: An Interview with Second-Year Intern Kayja Mann

By Ian Consoli

Every year we hire two or three interns during the harvest season to help us manage the 400+ tons of fruit that come through our cellar. Sometimes, one of those interns turns out to be a rock star and we invite them back for a second tour. Such is the case this year, as Kayja Mann has returned for another round after debuting here during the harvest of 2020. Cellar work during harvest, while it’s exciting and rewarding, is also physical and wet, with long, grueling days, so when an individual decides to do it again, I feel obligated to sit down and see where the motivation comes from.

The first thing one notes about Kayja is that she always has a smile on her face. Senior Assistant Winemaker Chelsea Franchi recently supported Kayja from the sideline as she ran a 100k in Lake Tahoe (65 miles!!) and Chelsea noted that her smile at the end of the race was as consistent as any day in the cellar. So, as you can imagine, Kayja brought that same positivity to her experiences in the cellar. She truly is a delight and I can’t wait for you to meet her.

Kayja Mann on a forklift at Tablas Creek

Who are you?

My name is Kayja. I graduated from Cal Poly SLO a year and a half ago. I have been trying a bunch of different jobs and living in various places ever since. I studied business in college. When COVID hit, my plans kind of changed, and I started to form an interest in wine.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sebastopol, California, so definitely wine country.

Did you form an interest in wine while you were growing up in Sebastopol?

No, not at all. My parents don't drink wine that much. It was all around, but I didn't have much interest at all. My interest in wine started during quarantine when I took a spirituality in wine class at Cal Poly with a couple of my really good friends. The course was online, so we'd get a bottle of wine and go sit on the lawn for class. It provided us a platform to try a bunch of different wines, and we started paying attention to other varietals from different places. The course was really cool because it focused on the spirit of the wine, like if this wine was a location, what location would it be? It was a different way of thinking about wine.

How did that new love of wine lead you to Tablas Creek?

A friend studying enology was planning to do a wine harvest during the fall of 2020. With COVID happening, my plan to go abroad was no longer an option, so I asked her, "Can I do a wine harvest? Could anyone do that?" She said, "Yeah, just apply to a bunch of places." I did, and Tablas Creek was the one I wanted the most because of its regenerative and biodynamic practices. Neil [Collins] was nice enough to get back to me and let me know; sorry, we're all full. Then a couple of days later, he called again to let me know a spot opened up if I still wanted to join. I came out, met everyone, and thought, alright, this is sweet. I'm going to be a part of this group. And I quickly signed on for Harvest 2020.

Right, this is not your first harvest with Tablas Creek. Why did you decide to come back for a second round?

I had such an awesome experience last year. I came in with no background in wine and figured it out with the help of the team. It's such a comfortable environment to work in. Everyone's super supportive and gives you a lot of agency to figure things out on your own. They act as resources if you want to come and ask. That was huge. I really liked the work environment where it's like, take that project and run with it. After that great experience, I thought it'd be cool to come back and build on what I learned last year. Luckily, they welcomed me back.

Kayja Mann working the sorting table at Tablas Creek

Do you see a career in wine for yourself?

Last year, it was something fun and different. I honestly didn't know if I would come back because I'm still figuring out what I want to do. But now I am here again. So truthfully, I don't know, but this year I'm coming into it thinking, is this something that I could see myself continuing to do? Maybe I'll have an answer for you at the end of harvest.

How did you hear about Tablas Creek?

I was just trying to find wineries in the area. I looked up something super vague, like sustainable wineries or sustainability wineries in Paso, or maybe biodynamic or regenerative, something along those lines. An article popped up on Tablas Creek, so I went to the website and liked what I saw. I previously worked for Dr. Bronner's, a co-founder of the Regenerative Organic Alliance. I was excited to see another company pursuing that certification process and be here last year when the certification was officially released.

If a genie said you could be head winemaker anywhere in the world at any winery. What would you choose?

That's so tough. I want to say New Zealand, but I think that's just because I want to go there. I know the weather doesn't work for this, but if there was a winery in Steamboat Springs, CO, where I live now, I would love to be a winemaker there.

Best bottle of wine you ever had?

I've been into bubbles recently and really like the Pet Nat from Lone Madrone. But probably the most memorable bottle was a vin jaune from the Jura region. It was funky and floral and definitely stood out because it's just such a different taste.

What's next for you after this harvest?

I'm heading back to Steamboat Springs to hopefully be on ski patrol at the resort there.

Would you rather:

Cake or pie?

I'm going to go with cake. As long as it's not chocolate cake.

Breathe underwater or fly?

Fly, for sure.

New-world wine or old-world wine.

Both.

Be a winemaker or a viticulturist?

I don't know enough about what a viticulturist's day-to-day looks like, so I have to go with winemaker.

Kayja Mann in front of barrels at Tablas Creek


Planting Her Roots Where She Began: An Interview with Tasting Room Lead Elizabeth "Lizzie" Williams

By Ian Consoli

When sitting down with Tasting Room Lead Elizabeth Williams, there is an immediate feeling of contentedness. She has a warm personality that puts everyone around her at ease. We recognized this when she first started at Tablas Creek as she quickly grew into a full-time role and was recently promoted to lead. Lizzie's influence goes beyond the tasting room floor. She coordinates Monday tastings with local wineries, she started a Facebook group for the tasting room staff to improve our communication within the department, and she is bridging the gap between multiple departments by setting up educational outings with members of the vineyard and cellar. We are very fortunate to have her on the team.

In this interview, you will get to know Lizzie, from her time growing up in Templeton to her path to wine and more. Meet Elizabeth "Lizzie" Williams:

Who are you, and what do you do at Tablas Creek?

That's a really deep question! I'm Lizzie Williams, and I am a Tasting Room Lead. I run the check-in station, pour wine, and behind the scenes stuff. I also do most of the Virtual Tastings, which I really enjoy.

Lizzie Williams

Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over the Central Coast, but mainly in Templeton. My best memories are at my grandpa's dairy farm. There was a horse farm next to us, and I remember growing up hanging out with horses, going hunting, and playing in the riverbed.

Do you still go to the dairy farm?

My dad actually sold the property in 2018. The new owners turned it into a vineyard, and they are really nice to me. They'll give me tours every once in a while and show me how everything's changed.

Can you tell us a bit about your family?

It's big! I have eight brothers, one sister, six dogs. These days, I mainly consider my family to be my husband Christian, our dogs, and our landlord, Harold, who treats us like family.

When and how did you get into wine?

I worked at restaurants, and understanding wine helped me do better in that industry, so I started applying at wineries for a part-time job to learn more. I threw a couple of darts on the board and landed at Tablas. When I started, I knew absolutely nothing about wine. Still, I enjoyed working in an environment where I learned every day while hanging out with people on vacation. I totally switched gears from restaurants to wineries and haven't looked back.

And how did you end up working at Tablas Creek?

I was about to sign papers at another winery when I checked my spam box right before going in and realized that I had missed a message from Tablas. I called the other winery and apologized, saying I had to check out this additional opportunity before making any commitments. They asked who the other winery was, and when I told them Tablas, they just said, "good for you! That's a perfect opportunity." That made me feel really confident about exploring what Tablas had to offer.

What do you enjoy most about working at Tablas Creek?

The absolute most… I'd have to say the dogs! [Laughs] I also really enjoy how passionate everybody is about learning. The crew gets along really well, and I'm still learning, so all of it is really fun.

Lizzie Williams 2

What's your ultimate goal in the wine industry?

That's a tough one because I went in so blind that I didn't have any goals established when I started. I have found so many options that I'm open to that I just want to stick around and see where it takes me. I don't have a specific spot. I'm just enjoying the ride.

If a genie says you can work in any winery anywhere in the world, where would you pick and why?

Anywhere in the world, honestly, Creston, where I'm living now. Then I'd have a couple of other things to talk to the genie about.

What's the best bottle of wine you ever had?

I have two that are really memorable. After learning the history of Domaine de Beaucastel, I spent a good chunk on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from 2015, and that's probably the best wine I've had. I was new in the industry, so I would like to revisit it, knowing what I know now because its complexity was a little over my head then. Secondly, the wine that really made me interested in learning about wine was Seven Oxen's Mourvèdre. That was the first wine that made me realize I wanted to know more about wine, so I'd say that was the most impactful.

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

That's a tough one: my husband, my dogs, and tacos.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have been venturing into a few new hobbies. I like taking old clothes from the thrift store and making them into something I like better. I have a fascination with rocks and soil science, so I have this little rock collection. I also enjoy walking on the property hanging out with the dogs. I just like simple things.

What would you like to be famous for?

I wouldn't like to be famous. That sounds like a lot of anxiety! [Laughs] I just like simple, low-key things.

Would you rather:

Cake or pie? Ice cream cake

 Breathe underwater or fly? Breathe underwater.

 New world wine or old world? Old world.

Winemaker or a viticulturist? A hundred percent viticulturist.

What else do people need to know about Lizzie Williams?

Just that I like learning, and I'm happy to be at Tablas Creek.

Lizzie Williams 3


Shepherd 2.0: How Dane Jensen became Tablas Creek’s Shepherd

By Ian Consoli

When someone lists "Shepherd" on their business card, you are guaranteed one thing: this will be an interesting person. I've spoken with an abnormal amount of shepherds for a person in the 21st century. In every instance (OK, both instances) I find a common thread of commitment to the land and experimentation. What a strange concept. We have one of the oldest professions in the world, considered archaic if not dead in modern society, currently being held by some of the most innovative land managers at some of the most experimental farms in modern California. Their innovation is rooted in traditions lost to chemical applications, tractor super fleets, and manufactured fertilizers. One could argue that the ancient profession of a shepherd, with their understanding of the benefits of grazing, represents the most viable future of agriculture.

Given my excitement about the shepherd profession, I jumped at the opportunity to interview our newest shepherd at Tablas Creek. In the short time I have spent in conversation with him, I have been impressed. He has immense knowledge of grazing, a deep commitment to the land, and an understanding of how it all ties back to the health of the planet. I can't wait for you to meet him.

World, I would like to introduce you to Tablas Creek's new shepherd: Dane Jensen.

Dane Jensen's face

Please state your name and what you do here at Tablas Creek.

My name is Dane Jensen. I'm the shepherd at Tablas Creek.

 Tell us more about your family life.

My wife, Amy, also works locally in the wine industry. And I have two daughters that are three and six right now, Maebelle and Ottilie, but she goes by Potzey. We have several dogs, goats, and chickens on our little family farm. It's set up as a perfect little way to raise young children. That's been really fun.

What's the best wine you've ever had?

I had the 2019 Cotes de Tablas from Tablas Creek recently. That one really stands out.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in San Diego, California.

Did you know many shepherds growing up in San Diego?

Zero. No shepherds, no sheep until I was 26 years old, and I'm 34 now.

What got you into Shepherding?

In college, I was exposed to farming by one of my best friends. He got me into hunting first, and the meat side of hunting fascinated me. That fascination slowly evolved into farming. Once I grasped on to holistic grazing management, I realized I was super passionate about it.

What was your first exposure to holistic farming?

I had this dream of raising all my own meat and cutting out the need for money. As I dug into the reality of making that happen, I realized it all came down to grass and started to pay more attention to the nature around me. I read tons of books on the topic until I worked up the courage to beg my wife to let us buy our first couple of sheep. With those two and my continued research, I just kind of taught myself.

Were you still in San Diego at that time?

No, I lived in Templeton. We were renting a 10-acre piece of property. I had some grass to play with and I actually started with goats. I had this aspiration with goats for a long time that they would be the answer, but they're tough to work with and don't like eating grass very much. I realized sheep and any grazing animal were the answer. I'm also pretty passionate about cattle but sheep, obviously, play a lot more important role in the vineyard.

What brought you to the Central Coast?

I knew I wanted to get into farming, and being in San Diego just wasn't working. I was working construction while managing a garden, a flock of chickens, anything I could on the little piece of property we had. I had an opportunity to come and visit the Central Coast one day and was hooked. I found an opportunity to work in the cellar at a local winery and jumped on it. During that time, I had little home projects going on with sheep and goats and a couple of cows. I've always had tons of chickens and a pretty big garden, trying to grow as much of my own food as I can for my family.

How did you end up at Tablas Creek?

When we had our first child, we decided it was best if I stayed home while my wife kept working. When it was time to go back to work, I started seeking jobs in agriculture. I started working at an olive ranch with sheep, giving me my first taste of real work in agriculture. From there, I got the ranch manager position at Rangeland wines. That was the bulk of my land management experience as far as grazing sheep and cattle. After a few years, I was offered the shepherd position here at Tablas Creek and took it.

How are you liking the job so far?

I'm loving it. Everybody's really nice. I have the creative freedom to try new things instead of sticking to one conventional view of getting the job done. We're able to experiment, try new things, and they really encourage us to be creative, which is awesome. It's just kind of a blessing.

Dane Jensen 3

What excites you most about what we're doing here at Tablas Creek?

The commitment to organic and biodynamic, and all these things that we genuinely believe in. We're not throwing these things to the wayside because they're time-consuming or because they're expensive, or because there's a lack of public interest. Everybody is willing to sacrifice little things and costs to stick with the original plan, the original dream. I've seen so many places start out organic and quickly give up because it seems like too much work. Not Tablas. Tablas has been doing the work for a long time before I got here, and they're going to be doing it for a long time into the future.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

I'm most excited about all the new projects that we can get into. If I really put my creative thoughts to paper, those thoughts will be encouraged. I've got a few things swirling around in my head that I've talked to Neil and Jordy about, and they're always excited to hear it. We're so open to outside-the-box thinking and being those outliers in agriculture, whether it's multi-species grazing, adding new ways of building soil or applying manure in different ways.

Could you share one of your new ideas?

Right now, we're working on our bio-char program. It's really a cool way to capture carbon out of the atmosphere and use it to the soil's benefit. Now we need a way to activate it with nitrogen. That's where my brain starts thinking about animal application. I want to build a chicken coop with a deep bedding of biochar where chickens can lay their manure, creating a nitrogen-rich layer with plenty of micro bacteria ready to be applied in the vineyard. I feel like animal impaction on the land is the quickest, healthiest way to build good organic topsoil.

Closing thoughts?

I think exciting things are going to happen. There are silly things that I would write down in a journal when I was first learning about holistic land management that I had forgotten about while working in conventional environments the past few years. Now, a lot of those ideas are coming back to the surface. Silly ideas from the past that everybody here is like, why wouldn't that work? You know? And, and if it doesn't, who cares? At least we tried. That's really encouraging for the future.

Dane Jensen 1


Gustavo's Garden: Benefits for Our Vineyard... and Our Team

By Ian Consoli

The first summer I worked at Tablas Creek, I was pleasantly surprised to find a constant stream of fresh fruits and vegetables appearing in the kitchen. It didn't take long to find out that the man delivering these treats was Gustavo Prieto. Gustavo has worked in our tasting room, vineyard, and cellar; you can learn about his many talents in an interview we published in 2017.

Another summer is here and, once again, fruits have started making their appearance in the lunchroom. Having enjoyed the fruits of his labor this long, I sat down with Gustavo to hear his philosophy on gardening, how it got started, how his work in the staff garden also benefits the vineyard, and what advice he has for home gardeners.

Gustavo standing in the garden

Please remind our audience where you grew up and how you came to be at Tablas Creek.

I was born and raised in Chile. I went to college at Cal poly San Luis Obispo. I earned a degree in fruit science, which brought me into agriculture. I went back to Chile after earning my degree and worked in produce imports and exports. I moved back to the central coast later and decided to switch careers, venturing into the wine business. A couple of years in, I started hearing about Tablas Creek. Pretty much all the roads lead to Tablas, you know? Every single person that I talked to said, just go to Tablas. So I came one day and tasted the wine, and that was it for me; I applied for a job and started in the tasting room. That was my beginning 14 years ago.

What is your role at Tablas Creek?

I run the biodynamic program at Tablas and keeping it moving forward. That's my primary responsibility, but I also work in the cellar during harvest and various projects in the vineyard. I'm in charge of all the fruit trees, watering, pruning, harvesting, et cetera. In the summer I plant a garden to be enjoyed by the employees.

And that is why we're here, to talk about that garden. Did you have a garden growing up?

Not at my house, but my grandparents'. Both of my grandparents were farmers in Chile. I remember seeing these beautiful, huge gardens, a couple of acres planted with everything from corn to strawberries, cherries, apples, peaches; you name it. Also, greens and summer stuff like squash and zucchinis. Their gardening actually fed a big family, so it was needed and provided fresh fruit and produce for a large number of people. That's the way things were done at the time. From since I can remember, I was working in the garden early in the morning, with the dew on the ground, getting my feet wet, and plucking the strawberries fresh from the plant. I think that planted the seed early on for me to decide to study agriculture.

Do similar crops grow here to Chile, are there some that grow better there than they do here and vice versa?

It's basically the same because we share the same climate due to being in similar latitudes. It is a Mediterranean climate like we have in California, so we can grow the same things here that they can grow there. We're pretty big in avocados, table grapes, and apples.

What do you have growing right now?

We have a lot of tomatoes, which is great, they look absolutely beautiful; lots of corn also. Corn and tomatoes are some of the main things that we grow here. We have different kinds of chili peppers, squash, zucchini, melons, watermelons, a little bit of basil, and pumpkins so that they will be ready for Halloween. Basically, summer crops, plants that do well with the soils and need a lot of heat.

Gustavo picking in the garden

Is there anything that grows particularly well?

From my experience, corn is beautiful every year. Tomatoes do fantastic. Zucchini grows well everywhere; that's not a secret. Squash is the same; they thrive in this dry heat. I planted garlic early this year, very beautiful garlic with nice big heads. I found onions do quite well in these soils. Last year was our first year planting them, and I was impressed by how well they dealt with the temperature. They kept growing through the summer, which they're not meant to, but they did well, and we enjoyed them throughout the season.

How much of the land is dedicated to growing crops?

A quarter-acre.

What do you do with all the crops you grow?

Everything is for the consumption of the employees at Tablas. We distribute everything when they're ready. We just harvested the last of the cherries, and most of the employees got a handful to take home. We'll bring some peaches next and maybe our first nectarines, but the whole idea is to share with everybody.

How does having a garden benefit the vines at Tablas Creek?

It helps bring more diversity to the farm. We're biodynamic, organic, regenerative, and the garden is another level to complement what we've already been doing. The fruit trees, for example, have been planted for many years now, olive trees, fruit trees, et cetera. It also creates a habitat. When corn blooms, the bees go crazy. Everything else blooms and attracts bees, beneficial insects, and different pollinators, bringing more and more diversity to the farm.

What advice do you have for aspiring gardeners to start?

Go for it. Be curious and try things. You will learn from others by asking questions, like what grows best in your area and potential issues. The resources are out there as well. You can get help from the local ag commissioner and farm advisors; all of those people will be glad to help you. Also, don't be intimidated by it. Some people say they don't have a green thumb, but it's like driving; you learn, you mess up a little bit initially, but stick with it, and you will get it.

Any closing thoughts?

Yes, my wife, Heidi Peterson, is a big inspiration for me. My first personal garden was here in California, and she was the one that inspired me to start. She has been gardening forever and shared her local knowledge with me. She really taught me a lot. Putting what I learned growing up in Chile with what Heidi had to offer has allowed me to run the garden here at Tablas Creek.

Gustavo smiling in the garden


From the Orchard to the Vineyard: Q & A with Assistant Tasting Room Manager Rumyn Purewal

By Ian Consoli

If you have been to our tasting room in the past four years, the chances you’ve met Rumyn. Rumyn (pronounced rum-in) Purewal has been with Tablas Creek since June of 2017, and at times it feels like we couldn’t run it without her. Her ability to adapt to whatever the team and the customer needs has been invaluable. Whether she’s asked to pour at the bar, spearhead a new seated flight experience, run the register, or greet guests at the check-in station, Rumyn has always been up to the task. So when an opening for the Assistant Tasting Room Manager position opened up, everyone knew she was the perfect fit. Of course, due to her humble nature, everyone knew but her.

In addition to managerial duties, she now makes the calls for the apparel and merchandising part of the tasting room. We are all excited to see how she contributes to the success of our team and your customer experience. On the heels of her promotion to Assistant Tasting Room Manager, I sat down with Rumyn to find out more about her.

Rumyn Purewal in the tasting room

Who are you?

I am Rumyn Purewal, the Assistant Tasting Room Manager at Tablas Creek.

Where did you grow up?

In Yuba City, California.

Tell us a bit about your family and growing up in Yuba City, California.

My grandpa immigrated from Punjab, India, and made enough money working the fields to purchase land. He planted a large peach orchard and worked hard to establish a successful harvesting company. Today, my dad and his brothers run the orchard and the company. I grew up there on my family’s peach farm just outside of Yuba City.

So how did you go from a peach farm to getting into wine?

I went to school at Cal Poly SLO. I studied agricultural business because it was a pretty broad major, and if I ever wanted to go home to the family farm, it would be directly applicable. I fell in love with the Central Coast and began looking for agriculture adventures in the area. I had interned a few years with Farm Credit West and decided I didn’t want to pursue accounting or finance. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia and enjoyed my first experiences within a wine region, so I decided to apply to multiple wineries when I graduated. I interviewed with Tablas Creek, was intrigued by their story and how educational-based they were, and decided to accept a position in the tasting room.

What do you enjoy most about working at Tablas Creek?

I enjoy the people and my co-workers in this very family-oriented setting. I enjoy the farming practices and the opportunity to see the winery become the first in many things without wanting to be the only one, like spreading the cuttings and encouraging others to sign up for the ROC certification. We don’t hoard the knowledge; we want to make it available to everyone.

Rumyn Purewal at work

What is your ultimate goal in the wine industry?

To be determined [laughs]. I like how the wine industry has so much knowledge to absorb. From the way different vineyards farm the grapes, to vinification in the cellar, to all the varieties and regions, there’s just so much to learn. My goal is to keep absorbing that knowledge.

If a genie said you could work at a winery anywhere in the world, where would you pick?

Tablas Creek. Ah, I’m not too fond of this question. If I could go anywhere, I would go to New Zealand.

What’s the best bottle of wine you’ve ever had?

The one that stands out in my mind was a bottle I had at the tasting room of A Tribute to Grace in Los Alamos. The Hofer Vineyard Grenache was just bright, fun, and delicious.

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

I would bring my mala (a bracelet my grandma gave me), pictures of my family, and my journal.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to dance, adventure, and explore new cities and states.

For what would you like to be famous?

I don’t want to be famous. 0% of me wants to be famous!

Would you rather:

 Cake or Pie?

Neither. I want ice cream!

Breathe underwater or fly?

Fly

Drink, new world wine or old world wine?

Old world

Be a winemaker or a viticulturist?

Viticulturist

Rumyn Purewal near plants


Our Most Memorable Wines of 2020

One of the things I appreciate most about the team that I work with at Tablas Creek is the wide range of their interests and experiences. If you don't work at a winery, you might expect that those of us who do spend most of their time drinking their own wines, but in my experience, that's far from the case. Most people who find a career in wine do so because they find it fascinating, and that interest doesn't go away just because they've landed at a particular winery, even a winery that they love. And most people who work at wineries look at exploring other wines as an enjoyable form of continuing education.

This year, I asked our key people to share a wine that stuck with them from all the ones they'd tried in 2020. I wasn't sure what to expect, given the challenges that the year presented to all of us. Would it be the last wine that people enjoyed with friends before they learned the meaning of "social distancing"? A bottle that they enjoyed with a family unit? Something that reminded them of someone they lost? Some people couldn't find a wine that they wanted to remember, in a year they wanted to forget. And I get that. But there were plenty of reminders too that wine does serve to bring us together, and is still one of the best proxies for (and reminders of) travel that we have available to us. 

Here's everyone's submission, in their own words and only very lightly edited, in alphabetical order (except mine, which is at the end):

Janelle Bartholomew, Wine Club Assistant
I couldn’t choose just one memorable wine this year, so I included a couple that stuck out for me. As I’m writing this, I realize both of these wines stick out likely because it was my first time ever to enjoy these varietals – which makes anything just a bit more special. The first wine that stuck with me is Meyer-Fonne Vieilles Vignes Pinot Blanc 2018.  This wine hails from Alsace, a region that never seems to disappoint! Lovely white peach and honey resonate on the palate and lingers with a long elegant finish. My only qualm…. I wish I’d bought more!  The second wine that immediately comes to mind is the 2019 (Tablas Creek) Bourboulenc. I was lucky enough to secure myself a single bottle this year, and enjoyed it with Thanksgiving dinner.  What I loved most about the Bourboulenc was the texture of this wine, it has more body than I expected but still maintained a great amount of acidity that makes it quite lively.  When I first tasted it, I thought “if Roussanne and Grenache Blanc had a baby, this would be it!” Such a treat… and I can’t wait for next year’s release!

Charlie Chester, Senior Assistant Tasting Room Manager
Charlie DadMy most memorable wine of this year was just a few weeks ago. Saturday December 5th, the day before my fathers 80th birthday. My girlfriend Amber and I drove down to his house in Solvang, my sister and her husband, Matt drove up from Carpinteria and we cooked dinner for dad and his wife Diane.  It was bound to be a great time that deserved a special wine. My sister, Kacey, was in charge of the main dish. She grilled a pork rib roast and it was delicious.  I knew what was on the menu and I thought that the 2015 Esprit de Tablas would be nice with it so I got my hands on a magnum to compliment both the meal and the celebration. I think a magnum always boosts the level of celebration a bit and we were celebrating a monumental occasion and needed a bottle of size and quality to match.  I brought a gold marker to let everyone sign and wish the dad a happy birthday. It was truly a great time with great company!

As you can see (right) I also got dad our new Tablas Creek Patagonia windbreaker and my sister's husband is a firefighter in Santa Barbara and styled him out with an SBFD hat and t-shirt.

Austin Collins, Cellar Assistant
Much of 2020 is a blur. Part of me still feels like it's March but, as I stare at the flickering lights on our Christmas tree I know that's not true. Another reminder is the upcoming new year and, for the first time I think most of us are celebrating the end of a year, not just the promise of a new one. In retrospect, it's statistically true that most of us drank a bit more this year! But, much like the year, a lot of the wines opened blend together in my head. So, two that I can remember are the 2017 Garance from Chateau de Bois Brincon (100% Pineau d'Aunis). Insane white pepper on the nose and a lovely rustic mouth with bright purple fruits. Secondly, a 2018 Gruner Veltliner from Hum Hofer. While not the best Gruner in the world I had it with my wife on our first wedding anniversary at the lovely eatery Bell's in Los Alamos. It also comes in a unique package: a 1000 mL bright green bottle topped with a crown cap. Here's to a better year ahead! Cheers!

Neil Collins, Executive Winemaker
So many bottles have crossed our table through these trying times, it is hard to narrow it down. We opened a bottle of Ojai Vineyards Sans Soufre. On the table with a group of much more expensive wines, Sans Soufre was head and shoulders the wine of the night.

As is tradition we tasted many great wines at the harvest lunch table, for me one of the stand out wines was the Lone Madrone 2001 Il Toyon Nebbiolo. Christmas morning opening presents, fire in the grate a bottle of Albert Boxler Riesling from Brand, a stunning bottle. Lucky we are!

Ian Consoli, Media and Marketing
In SLO County in 2020 I think we had one week where we could eat in a restaurant. I’m exaggerating of course, but when the opportunity arose following previous shutdowns what restaurant do you think I chose to go to with my best wine drinking friends? Ember. Obviously. We took two bottles that both paired mind blowingly well with Chef Brian’s creations. A 2014 Chateau du Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape with a Duck Ragu and a 2016 Stephane Ogier Mon Village Côte-Rôtie with the filet. To be sitting inside a restaurant experiencing pairings that had me melting into my chair took me all the way back to 2019.

Darren Delmore, National Sales Manager
Love Potion My white wine of the year is Tablas Creek's 2014 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. It's not quite a tradition yet, but this will be a third Christmas Eve that I make Daniel Boulud's Onion Soup and follow his recommended pairing of Roussanne. When you taste the dense, slick, rooty, herbed broth and melted gruyere and salty crouton mixed in, you see why a low acid and equally rich viscous white like the Esprit Blanc is the ideal companion. 2014 was such a powerful vintage for Roussanne that I'm saving a couple bottles for the ten year mark. 

My red wine of the year is The Other Right 2019 "Love Potion" Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia. Sulfite free Shiraz (the label says it's "Shiraz Juice") from a coastal site in a warm, drought affected vintage. The alcohol is moderate and the wine is full of power and energy - truly living wine. The whole clusters are fully integrated, likely aged in an old puncheon, and made with nearly zero electricity. I learned of the winemakers Alex and Galit on the excellent podcast Real Wine People out of Australia (very much worth a binge listening). Alex is a wine scientist at the Australian Wine Research Institute, and is jokingly the only wine scientist in the world to make natural wine. Plus who doesn't need a little Love Potion in a year like 2020?

Chelsea Franchi, Senior Assistant Winemaker
Cruise at Tempier

Most years, the most memorable wine for me is the bottle that has been opened to mark a special occasion, whatever that may be.  Granted, for special occasions, we typically pull out something that’s special to us! Domaine Tempier has been the go-to for my husband and me for the decade we’ve been married.  Back in 2013 (photo above) we had the excellent fortune to go on one of the Tablas Creek cruises. One of the days on the cruise, we spent an afternoon visiting the domaine and fell even deeper in love with them. Many an anniversary has been marked with a bottle of red (or sometimes rosé!) from this winery. 

Trevor with BohdiAugust of this year, we welcomed the arrival of our daughter, Bohdi, which meant I spent a good deal of this year abstaining. The night we brought Bo home, my mom came over to cook us dinner and then left us to enjoy our first meal at home as a newly minted family of three (amazing, right?!).  Since my mom made some ridiculously beautiful rib eyes, it was only fitting that we open a bottle of red that could stand up to them.  We had a bottle of Pour Lulu (Lulu is the matriarch of Domaine Tempier, who passed away this October at 102) in our stacks and it was decided that a bottle that was made in homage to a strong and beloved woman was the perfect way to honor the arrival of our new strong, beloved little girl.  It needed a few hours of decanting, but when those tight, muscular wings started to open up, it was an utter delight and a perfect accompaniment (right) to one of the most exciting nights of our lives.

Barbara Haas, Co-Founder and Partner
I had a fun experience the other day with a wine I hadn’t tasted in at least two years. I had prepared a nice braised chicken (with onions, garlic, herbs, and tomatoes), and I went downstairs to look for an appropriate wine. My guests were two old friends who refused to give me any guidance – even as to white or red. That was MY job, they said. They have had many bottles of Tablas here, particularly over this past year, so I wanted to offer them something different. But it didn’t seem fair to submit an old Burgundy to the acidity of the tomatoes in the dish. As I was scanning the wine rack, I noticed a 2016 Julienas. Most Beaujolais should be drunk young, I know, but this was a “cru” and so I hoped it was still in good form.

It was lovely! Clean and pure and very Beaujolais, and so different from our Rhone-style wines. The very specific and unique taste reminded me how fun it is to vary the wines one drinks, and how silly not to when one has the chance. The experience is like trying different kinds of foods, or listening to different styles of music. It wakes the senses, which in turn wakes the brain, and gives delight.

I vow to add more variety to my wine-drinking in 2021. I always have the comfort of knowing I have a good selection of Tablas wines, and I believe that tasting the other wines in the cellar will give me a deeper appreciation of what we make and how it fits in with its colleagues.

Pam Horton, Assistant Controller
There are two wines that come to mind when I think about 2020. First, is the Tablas Creek Vineyard 2019 Bourboulenc. I have to say that I was intrigued by the name as I had never heard of this grape before. What a wonderful wine! I know that I wasn’t the only one who loved it, because it was sold out in no time. I will be looking forward to the next release. My second favorite wine is from another Paso Robles winery, Tackitt Family Vineyard’s 2018 Willie Pete White. It is a really nice light Sauvignon Blanc which was wonderful to drink during the summer. Tackitt has two lines of wine, their Tackitt Family Vineyard and their EOD Cellars. Willie Pete White is part of the EOD Cellars line and all of the proceeds from the wine sold are donated to the EOD Warrior Foundation. So for me it’s a win-win as I’m purchasing a wine I love and also supporting a great cause.

Ray King, Tasting Room
I have a few wines that stood out and provided fun relief in 2020.

All of the wines I picked were all a part of a meal, or in preparation for a meal. I truly love when great wines come together with great cuisine.

1) 2016 Domaine de La Pirolette, Saint Amour, Le Carjot. This Gamay noir I picked up while in France in 2019 and it was delicious . I served this with Ratatouille Gratin and grilled tri-tip in my backyard.

2) Hot summer evenings, while grilling, I would enjoy a slightly chilled 2018 Tablas Creek Counoise. While eating the dinner I grilled, usually a Ribeye served with Humboldt Fog cheese on top, I would enjoy the 2017 Tablas Creek Tannat. This combo made for great hot summer evenings.

3) Hot summer days, enjoying a cocktail in the afternoon. Aperol Spritz made with 2016 Caudrina Romano Dogliotti “La Selvatica”. This sparkling Asti is sweet and only 7% alcohol. This wine brought a nice, and new, twist on a classic summer cocktail. 

4) 2018 Tablas Creek Marsanne. I drank this wine and used it in the cooking of my Grilled Chicken, Red Bell Pepper, Fettuccine Alfredo. The Marsanne added a nice kick of acid to this lovely, and rich, dish.

Misty Lies, Tasting Room Team Lead
Aussie afternoonWhen it comes down to picking my favorite bottle of wine for the year it will actually be a toss up for three bottles all shared between friends at an afternoon bbq. Before the world went crazy we had the pleasure of traveling to Melbourne Australia to visit  a friend I hadn’t seen in 33 years and new ones that were met along the way because of him. We had a great bbq one afternoon and did some sharing of wines. I brought down a bottle of our 2010 Tannat that went up against a 2001 Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a 2015 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. All three were fun wines and everyone was happy to finally try the Tannat I have been telling them about for a few years now. During the year with all the ups and downs, I have come back to this afternoon and appreciated every minute of that day. Wines have a way of making meals a little bit more special and as always are best shared around a table of good friends.

John Morris, Tasting Room Manager
My favorite wine of 2020?  I haven’t enjoyed it yet, but I’ll let you know on New Year’s Eve! I can’t let it go unmentioned that I’ve had the unique opportunity to taste the singular, spectacular 2017 Esprit de Tablas Blanc most days this year.  This wine has gotten wide and much-deserved praise, and special attention in our blog published recently. It really is a knockout. And the 2017 Esprit de Tablas (red) is pretty special in its own right, perhaps my favorite vintage yet.  We’re super lucky to taste these wines on a regular basis. But as for my yet-to-be most delicious wine of 2020, I plan to head down to 15C in Templeton and ask for the best Champagne under $100, pop it 30 seconds after I walk in the door, raise a toast, and say good-bye to this most difficult year. Here’s to 2021!

Rumyn Purewal, Tasting Room Team Lead
It is hard to believe that this year started out like many others. And it started with my favorite wine of the year. I went to dinner with my fellow pals, also Tablas Creek family, Leslie and Ian, at local eatery Heirloom. We got the food to go and had a picnic in the Adelaide with one of those pairings that takes you to a magical place. With all locally grown and sourced food prepared by amazing people and chefs we paired the meal with a Portuguese wine recommended by Darren Delmore, a Humus Vinho Regional Lisboa. A natural wine made with indigenous Portuguese grapes. It was an incredible experience that stuck with me throughout the year. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Years. Cheers! 

Troy Tucker, Tasting Room
Troy bottles of the yearSo I have 3 wines that stood out to me this year the most.

The first was the 2017 Thacher Cinsaut. A very unique and balanced wine full of character! A nerdy wine to say the least.

The second was the 2017 La Encantada Pinot Noir from Decroux/TH Estate. The vineyard really really makes this wine. Very expressive of terroir and captures the delicacy and complexity of Pinot Noir. I could go on and on about this wine!

And third is none other than the 2012 Esprit de Tablas Rouge (pictured right). Not to toot our own horns too much but, wow! So soft, so powerful, so many layers of clean vigorous personality. After 40 minutes in a decanter, it opened and gave one of the cleanest softest drinking wines I've had from Paso in a while! Paired amazing with the ribeye from McPhee's too!

Me
My mom is building a new house. As a part of that construction, earlier this summer we had to move a wine fridge that was inconveniently positioned in her garage right where a door needed to be cut. So, Meghan, the boys and I spent a few hours one afternoon in June emptying that wine fridge, moving the wines that were there into different storage, and identifying some bottles that were ready to open. One that I "rescued" was a bottle made by Jacques d'Angerville, the Burgundy proprietor who was my dad's closest friend in the region that made his reputation as an importer.

The wines from Domaine Marquis d'Angerville always speak to the elegant side of Pinot Noir. The bottle we opened was a Volnay Caillerets from 1979, reputed as a good but not great vintage, but the wine was sublime, with minerality and tension, crunchy red fruit even at age 40+, and the lovely loamy earth character I find so distinctive in mature Burgundy. It turned the meal of a simple roast chicken into one of the highlights of our dining year. In a year marked by losses and absences, I felt my dad's presence strongly that night. Wines have the ability to preserve a conjunction of place, time, and people. The Volnay evoked all that, while also being a testament to my dad's vision and foresight, and a lasting legacy to Jacques's genius, nearly two decades after his death. 

Roast Chicken and Volnay

A few concluding thoughts:
As you might expect, this was an eclectic list. Some wines are Tablas Creek, but most are not. Many were older, which says that for all the challenges of storing and being patient with wines, the rewards can be marvelous. But the thing that stood out most for me was the extent to which wines help mark and commemorate milestones our lives, or give regular moments additional depth and meaning. I have high hopes for 2021. May your food and wine experiences be memorable, and may we all find more to celebrate next year.